Arts

Arts and culture

Some people go to auto races secretly hoping to see a crash. You wouldn't go to a concert for that reason, but with live music you really never know what might happen.

  • So beautiful, I want to go to there: photos from inside a guitar, violin, cello, flute and pipe organ. They were taken for a marketing campaign for the Berlin Philharmonic's chamber ensembles, but I would prefer to live inside them.

Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.

An amazing new documentary film is a must-see not just for music lovers, but for anyone who needs to see the nourishing power of the arts and human connections.

Kinshasa Symphony takes us into the everyday lives of the members of a most unlikely ensemble: the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, located in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a place ravaged by war, endemic poverty and corruption.

My first grown-up show: Oliver! Mom and me way up high in the upper balcony, watching all those kids down below.

One older character, Nancy, who looked a little like my mom, died in the second act — a development that I found pretty shocking — and by the time for the curtain calls, it still hadn't occurred to me yet that the actress hadn't died.

So everybody else comes out for applause, reprising the songs they'd sung earlier, which was the custom in musicals back then, including little Oliver, who sang a verse of a song that Nancy had taught him earlier.

It wasn't always easy for Polish composer Witold Lutosławski to find his musical voice.

His Symphonic Variations, which opens this third disc in a series of Lutosławski's music, was shunned by a Warsaw Conservatory professor in the late 1930s. Not understanding the young student's score, the teacher, Witold Maliszewski, said, "For me your work is ugly."

Parabéns, Heitor Villa-Lobos!

Mar 5, 2012

  • The Detroit Symphony Orchestra booked an unexpected guest artist, and his name is: Kid Rock. They're doing a benefit concert together May 12 to raise $1 million for the struggling symphony, with tickets from $100 to $1500. Says the singer: "As a musician, and of course a Detroiter, I am proud to be supporting this longstanding cultural institution.

One of the founders of the website Kickstarter, Yancey Strickler, made a startling statement recently: His company, which allows individuals and groups to post ideas for new creative projects and then solicit donations, will distribute $150 million in 2012.

The Vienna Philharmonic At Carnegie Hall

Mar 2, 2012

Lorin Maazel leads the revered orchestra in Mozart's Symphony No. 40 and his own 'Ring Without Words' — Wagner's 'Ring' whittled down to 70 singer-free minutes.

Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.

As opera left its toddler years behind, it grew more restrictive and extravagant at the same time. Around 1700, a new style called opera seria began to dominate. It was, as the name implies, "serious opera," and was driven by two main forces: formulaic librettos and flamboyant singers.

Maurice André, who elevated the status of the solo trumpet, has died at age 78. Celebrated for his clarion tones, especially from his piccolo trumpet, André touched off a resurgence of interest in the trumpet and music from the Baroque era.

Several years after he wrote his massive and existentially searching Second Symphony, Gustav Mahler withdrew the three separate sets of notes he had issued about it, on the grounds that the music should be able to stand on its own, its meaning instantly clear. And the poetry Mahler assigned to the chorus and vocal soloists in this sprawling work is incisive and illuminating. As Mahler wrote in his text for the concluding movement, "Sterben werd' ich, um zu leben!" (I will die, that I might live!).

  • Stephen Colbert had Plácido Domingo on as his guest last night. (Question: "What's the longest it's taken you to die on stage?" Answer: Simon Boccanegra — get poisoned in the second act, don't die until the third.) Also, they sang "La donna è mobile" together.

On this week's show, we're coming up to the Oscars, so it seemed like a great time to sit down with the delightful Bob Mondello, film critic for All Things Considered.

We talk about The Artist — which we all agree is the likely Best Picture winner on Sunday night — and how its limitations of silence and black and white operate to perhaps make it stronger. We discuss how it might look different to those who see it on home video, and it's safe to say we all think you're better off seeing it in a theater.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

It's been about three decades since pre-Baroque music began to be revived in a big way. A whole constellation of big-name vocal superstars has evolved, with Anonymous 4, The Tallis Scholars and the late Montserrat Figueras among the firmament.

For his third symphony, the 26-year-old American composer Mohammed Fairouz decided to incorporate text in three languages. Poems and Prayers, which had its debut Thursday in New York, features passages in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic.

The symphony was commissioned by Northeastern University, where Fairouz teaches. The idea was to write something exploring the conflicts in the Middle East, so for inspiration, Fairouz delved into the region's poetry — both ancient and modern.

Beloit International Film Festival

Feb 17, 2012

The Beloit International Film Festival is underway.  The event, which runs through February 19th, is holding some events on the Illinois side this year. 

So what's wrong with rap and opera? Not much, really. Except that last week when we asked readers to name their musical blind spots (genres or bands they ignored, either by choice or neglect) a distinct refrain emerged within the responses. Two examples:

"Oh, and by the way, rap is not music. It is mostly a bunch of meaningless drivel by people with no real talent and who certainly should not get paid."

An all-star cast, including guitarist Pepe Romero and the legendary I Solisti di Zagreb, heads up these performances of three concertos by Ernesto Cordero. Born in New York in 1946, Cordero was raised in Puerto Rico where he teaches guitar and composition at the University of Puerto Rico. Each of these works is an appealing musical paella with Caribbean seasoning.

We in the classical community may barely look up to notice the Grammys, and classical music has, for decades now, been a peripheral presence at most to mainstream music fans.

Science-fiction author, technology activist and blogger Cory Doctorow visited the NIU campus recently. Doctorow has long been involved in issues of privacy and freedom related to modern technology. His bestseller “Little Brother” focused on just those issues as a group of teens use the internet to battle government attempts to strip them of their civil liberties.  WNIJ’s Guy Stephens had a chance to sit down with Doctorow for a conversation about the dilemma society faces in the Internet age.

 

  • Conductor, educator and lecturer Benjamin Zander was fired from his post at the New England Conservatory last month over his hiring of a registered sex offender as a NEC videographer.

Super Bass: Can You Hit This Note?

Feb 8, 2012

Calling all basses: Decca Records is on the hunt for someone who can sing a low E, nearly three octaves below middle C. The note is featured in a new piece called De Profundis (Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord — Psalm) by the Welsh composer Paul Mealor.

"I'm really attracted to the depths of the human spectrum," Mealor tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "We're seeking to find the person that can sing the lowest note ever written in choral music — and not just that note, but the solo in this piece for bass solo and choir. So we're looking for someone very special."

Charles Dickens — one of the most beloved storytellers in the English language — was born 200 years ago Tuesday. He was a comic genius and a social reformer whose novels made him famous in his own time, and continue as classics in ours.

When Johnson and Ellen Sheriff Curtis moved their family from Minnesota to Seattle in 1887, two of their teenage sons developed a burgeoning interest in photography.

One of them, Edward Curtis, would go on to become famous for his photographs of Native Americans. But his brother, Asahel Curtis, who worked to less acclaim as a commercial photographer in Seattle, also left behind a remarkable body of work.

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